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Posts from September 2013

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Are you being served on social media?



New statistics state that a third of us Brits will complain about bad service or our dissatisfaction with a brand via social media. I have to admit that I too have done this (the company I was complaining about shall remain nameless).

Increasingly, businesses have to use social media as a direct customer enquiry line: an enquiry line which is instant and more visible than any phone call or email.

Consumers have to simply take to Twitter or Facebook to vent their frustrations, avoiding the traditional ‘press one for support’ and ‘please hold’ of customer helplines. Using social media puts complaints firmly in the public domain.  

Therefore it’s imperative to get customer service on social media right. Not only can the whole world see a customer complaint or query, they can also see any mistakes in handling the enquiry and can even chip in with their own opinion. BT Sport was inundated with tweets about customers being unable to log in on mobiles and tablets to watch the debut match from the new sports channel. Such was the attention on social media, the complaints even caught the eye of the media. By Sunday morning, news pieces, such as this article from the Sunday Mirror, were commenting on the technical glitch and the football fans’ anger.   

Social media is quick and likewise, so should be the response to any complaint on it. Showing speedy, effective customer service online makes the complainant happy but also serves as a fantastic advert to the professionalism of a business. It also allows brands to take control, halt any escalation of conversations and put things right quickly.

Alongside providing great customer service, there’s another incentive to effectively use social media. Seventy per cent of consumers who have had a complaint dealt with on social media go on to purchase from the brand again, as research announced by Business Reporter shows.

So what’s the easiest way of handling complaints on social media?

Many brands have opted for specific accounts for handling customer enquiries. Sainsbury’s has @sainsburys for recipes, competitions and customer support and @SainsburysPR for company news and releases. Using this practice keeps the excellent news that a brand wants to shout to the world away from customers querying home delivery times or the availability of their favourite ready meal.

If this all sounds rather gloomy, then fear not, social media customer enquiries can be positive. Many consumers will tweet brands to ask about products they love or to simply say how much they enjoyed their experience.

I regularly tweet restaurants and bars if I’ve had a good time there, and it’s really satisfying when I receive a tweet back in thanks, or even in jest (thanks Betty’s in York, Teacup in Manchester and Patisserie Valerie!). Getting live positive feedback from customers is great for staff morale and is fabulous free marketing for a brand.

Social media also offers an insight into the mind of customers, an insight which can be used to plan strategies, competitions, new products and more.

The Drum recently offered some more top tips for using social media as a customer enquiry channel.

One thing everyone agrees on: no brand should ignore social media and the power it has to persuade new or repeat custom. A bad experience or even worse, no experience via social media, could lose a customer for life.

To talk about what your business could gain from social media, why not give Refresh PR a call?

Tagged with: customer service, Facebook, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations North West, Social Media, Twitter

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Taking the initiative: CIM Manchester presents the latest in innovation for businesses



The latest CIM Manchester event focuses on how innovation can be used in businesses to drive growth and development. By reflecting on real examples where innovation has helped a company flourish, the event is set to evoke discussion and engage business leaders and marketers alike.

Guest speakers will include Dom Rodwell, chief creative officer at Play, Manchester’s design and innovation company, and Claire Gavin, head of innovation at Pets at Home, Britain's largest specialist pet retailer.

The irony we often face when discussing innovation within business is whether the actions of a company are in fact innovative – businesses need to be able to walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk. Understanding the expertise behind the processes of introducing innovation into a business is the first step to being able to implement a successful strategy into your own company.

Practically applying innovative ideas to a business can be tricky – but it isn’t limited in scope. Informative guidance about previous successful strategies and access to experts can prompt you to adopt a different way of thinking that is most suitable to your company.

Pets at Home has grabbed innovative thinking by the horns and launched an appeal to product inventors to get their designs on the shelves of the national retailer. Through pursuing alternative measures and communicating with experts outside of the company, Pets at Home has been able to assert itself as a leader of innovation within the industry, and Claire will no doubt have invaluable advice for businesses looking to adapt a similar approach.

With an increasing amount of technological advancements throughout the business and marketing world, it is vital for companies to effectively capitalise on their strengths by utilising the vast range of platforms, both online and offline.

 A stand out example of innovation that got everyone talking in the office was Asda adding real social media posts from customers about the products from the ‘Chosen By You’ own-brand food range to the packaging of the products themselves. The pre-launch utilised a multitude of online platforms – incorporating social media and customer feedback – as well as building trust in the brand by demonstrating customer satisfaction.  

With Manchester as a national hub for business and digital innovation, this event will be a great opportunity to hear from the experts about how to effectively invest in innovation, as well as a chance to network and meet like-minded professionals. We’ll see you there!

'Managing innovation: how to drive business growth' will take place at Manchester Business School on Wednesday 9th October. For further information and to register for tickets, please click here

Tagged with: Business, CIM, CIM Manchester, Innovation, Manchester, Marketing, Networking Event, North West

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‘Feed Me Better’ v ‘The School Food Plan’



Whether it’s picturing the face of the notoriously evil dinner lady, recognising the musty smell of cabbage from the school dinner hall or simply remembering being excited when cornflake tart and custard came on the menu, we can all recall something that was great, or not so great, about school dinners.

Despite the school menu evolving in recent years to become much healthier, the negative perception of school meals held by parents appears to have stayed the same. The percentage of children eating within the school canteen has fallen from over 70 per cent in the early 1970s to just 43 per cent today, with some schools “lagging behind, serving food that is much too bland, boring and beige,” according to Dimbleby and Vincent’s School Food Plan.

With good nutrition attributed to better performance in the classroom, it is no surprise that campaigns and initiatives, such as the School Food Plan, have been introduced over recent years. However, up until now, none have been successful – including Jamie Oliver’s 2005 Feed Me Better campaign.

Whilst Oliver’s campaign, backed with heavyweight PR support, led to the formation of the Children’s Food Trust, the introduction of basic nutritional standards to school meals and the widespread ban of junk food within the school environment and the shock tactics he employed as part of his campaign, had adverse effects.

Such was the panicked response of parents to Channel 4’s documentary series Jamie’s School Dinners, which recorded an audience of over five million in February 2005, that the uptake of school meals fell to an all-time low of 37 per cent, much to the dismay of school caterers. 

In contrast, Dimbleby and Vincent have taken a more strategic approach to instrumenting change, as outlined in the rather hefty 149 page document that is the School Food Plan.

With the support of the Secretary of State for Education already secured, Dimbleby and Vincent’s challenge is somewhat easier. The government has already agreed to provide funding for specialist organisations to go into 5,000 schools that are struggling with their lunch service and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has also agreed to create flagship ‘food boroughs’ in the capital.

In addition, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced yesterday that five to seven year olds in England will receive free school meals from September 2014, a move that has been welcomed by schools and parents alike.

However this doesn’t quite meet Dimbelby and Vincent’s original recommendation, as it will not apply to those pupils aged over seven. Acknowledging this recommendation, Nick Clegg stated:

"My ambition is that every primary school pupil should be able to sit down to a hot, healthy lunch with their classmates every day.

"We will start with infant school pupils because teaching healthy habits young, and boosting attainment early, will bring the biggest benefits.”

In order to avoid us having to address the same problem again in another ten years’ time, Dimbleby and Vincent’s solution is to educate today’s children with the skills they need to feed themselves – and, in time, their own families.

When asked to give his opinion on the School Food Plan, Jamie Oliver too felt that educating children would go a long way to improving school food:

“Getting cooking on the curriculum until the age of 14 and encouraging kids to eat school food are big steps, and we really need to get behind school cooks and head teachers to improve school food. I know how much energy and passion has gone into this plan. Now it has to deliver on its promises and make sure no schools are left behind – and that responsibility sits with this Government.”

 

Whilst Dimbleby and Vincent’s School Food Plan appears to have all the answers, my concern is that they will fail to get the support of parents, which they will come to rely on if the Government fails to meet its promise of providing free school meals.

 

Today, social media is one of the most powerful campaign tools available, and it must be utilised by campaigns such as the School Food Plan. Imagine if Jamie’s School Dinners was broadcast on our televisions today. Hashtags such as #JamiesSchoolDinners would be trending on Twitter, angry parents would be tweeting their child’s school and Facebook would be awash with statuses appalled at the contents of a Turkey Twizzler.

 

In August the School Food Plan had just 1,692 followers on Twitter, demonstrating its inability to really engage with the public. Despite yesterday’s free school meals announcement, the account has gained just 229 followers, which is disappointing considering that Twitter has been awash positive comments about the School Food Plan in the past 24 hours.

 

Whilst it is great to see the industry responding and engaging with the issue on social media, those behind the School Food Plan need to identify this as a creative opportunity to build momentum around the campaign.

Tagged with: , Channel 4, Dimbleby and Vincent, Feed Me Better, Food & Drink, Jamie Oliver, Lifestyle, Manchester, Nick Clegg, PR, PR Agency Manchester, PR Manchester, Public Relations, Public Relations North West, School Caterers, School Dinners, School Food Plan, Twitter